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Government 'could change bank levy'


The much-discussed budget changes announced by chancellor George Osborne earlier this month have moved a great deal of news print, but was there any good news for bankers and other people in the financial service industry?

One potential shift put forward by the chancellor could prove positive for finance institutions - the government is to consult on the merits of a new charging mechanism for the bank levy.

Under the changed system, banks would be placed into different bands according to their chargeable equity and liabilities and then charged a set amount, with the overall level of revenue raised from the sector unchanged.

At the moment, the bank levy is unilateral and flat-rate, meaning that every institution with a tax base of more than £20 billion must pay it.

Pundits and analysts have suggested this could be affecting the UK's productivity and making it more difficult for firms to compete with their international rivals, particularly in other finance hubs such as New York and Paris.

Tracey Bentham, PwC's tax business unit leader for the West & Wales, said it is "encouraging" that Mr Osborne resisted the external pressure to once again raise the levy, which has changed a number of times since its initial inception.

"We welcome consultation on a new charging mechanism for the bank levy. However, there needs to be a more fundamental review of the bank levy as its two aims - to raise revenue and to change behaviour - arguably run counter to each other," she added.

According to Ms Bentham, the levy is a "double hit" on the UK's ability to compete on an international level - in addition to making it a less attractive proposition for global business, it puts banks headquartered in Britain at a disadvantage when working overseas.

"A global consensus on bank levies seems further away than ever, putting London at a disadvantage when competing for global banking business," she concluded.

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